Here we take a brief look into the centuries old history of the Nottingham caves.
Nottingham is a city which stands near Triassic sandstone which forms low hills to the north of the River Trent. The broadest of all these hills is where the original Saxon settlement had been and the higher hill towards the west had been occupied as the stronghold for the Norman’s in 1068. The Norman town had expanded until it was occupying a major part of the sandstone outcrop to the north of low cliffs and the bluffs which descend towards the Trent floodplain. The town grew a little more until the middle of the 1800’s.
The Triassic sandstone, which is locally called the Nottingham Castle Formation in the Sherwood Sandstone Group has been distinguished by its high rock mass strength and low intact strength. It is very porous. The rock is notably free from significant joints too. This combination of minimal structural breaks and weak material makes the sandstone ideal as a tunneling medium. It is excavated quite easily and still manages to stand safely over unsupported spans.
This is probably why the earliest inhabitants of this region found it a lot easier to create dwellings spaces by excavating into the sandstone cliffs foot along the Trent floodplain edges. Even though Nottingham has been documented as the house of caves, there is very little that is known about the earliest cave houses. All of them have been destroyed ever since. Weathering has caused the degradation and retreat of the cliffs which is also matched by townspeople who cut back the profiles of the cliff. The newer caves had either been excavated behind the positions of the ones which had collapsed or had been removed as soon as they became unstable.
And there you have it. A brief look into these caves.
One part of the history of the city of Nottingham which many people may not know is the fact that there are more than 540 man-made sandstone caves beneath the city.
The ridge on which the city has been built is made of sandstone which was earlier called Bunter Pebble Beds. They were formed around 230 million years ago around the Triassic or Permian geologic periods. The stone is very hard and can make for a very reliable building material. At the same point of time it is also soft enough to be worked on with chisels and hand-held picks.
Unlike other sandstone areas, these caves weren’t created because of flowing water. For over a thousand years, residents from the area carved homes and stables horizontally in the cliffs and workshops and cellars vertically into foundations so as to create chambers that may be sturdier and cheaper as compared to the building structures overhead. The first mention of these caves was in the “Life of King Alfred” which was written by a monk back in 900 AD.
A number of the caves started off as wells since the sandstone was an excellent filter for creating cold, clear water. Unfortunately, residents didn’t really understand the porous benefits of sandstone and a lot of the wells were fouled soon after by garbage pits and nearby sewage.
But once the residents were aware of how easily the stone could be worked, they started created stairways, cellars and even rooms for a number of different purposes. Underground chambers were built for brewing and general storage too. They were used to store ale, as bank vaults, tanneries, wine cellars, live fish storage, etc. The County Gaol even dug caves to house prisoners. One of the Castle Boulevard complexes even had a chapel which was dedicated to St. Mary of the Rock too.
There are very few things which can compare to the beauty that of the Nottingham caves. They are very well known for their exceptional sandstone caves which have made throughout the centuries.
One of these caves, owned by Thomas Herbert, a lace maker, has been called the Victorian Folly because of the huge carving on its back wall of Daniel with six lions from the bible. The rest of the cave has also been intricately carved with a number of arches, pillars, staircases, buttresses, windows, ornamental animals, etc.
In the Second World War, more than 80 of these cases were used as shelters for air raids. There are a number of ancient caves which were opened up and then connected with some newly dug passages and new shelters were also excavated, including a lot of space beneath the cigarette factory of Player’s which could hold as many as 9000 people. Most of the sand which had been excavated at the time of these operations were filled in sandbags and used for the war bunkers both locally as well as abroad. It was only later discovered that there was a cave below the Nottingham castle which had been used secretly for radon and radium extraction at the time of the war too. This prompted a lot of local outcry.
Visitors are now allowed to explore all of these intriguing caves since they have been made open to the public. The largest group is the City of Caves which is located underneath the Broad marsh Shopping Centre. It contains a number of wells, an air raid shelter example, a pub cellar by Sam Hancock, a Victorian slum, Drury Hill Street remains and the Piller Cave and Tannery. There are even audio tapes available from the visitor facility for anyone looking for self-guided tours. Guides are available for group visits too.
Here you will find a few interesting facts about the Nottingham caves that not everybody knows.
First of all, did you know that the caves were used for work places? These included some medieval malt caves which were unique to Nottingham. 30 of them have been discovered so far. Each of them consisted of a smaller complex of caves which include a large germination room for the grain to be prepared, the kiln for it to be roasted and the well for reaching the local water table.
The underground tanneries are quite distinctive as well with tanning pits which have been cut into the rock floors. They are all found in the caves which are along the cliffs floodplains which is adjacent to the 16th century tanneries which were mainly outside and restricted from use in the freezing winters at the time of the mini Ice Age period where temperatures were a degree lower than where they are nowadays. Metal works, monastic chapels, wagon works, ornamental follies, cisterns, butchers, cold stores, wine vaults, etc. were just some of the other uses for these caves.
There are some mine groups there too from which sand has been extracted. The largest of the groups were worked by James Rouse and his colleagues for as much as twenty years in the 1800’s.
There are just a handful of these caves which are still in use. The sandstone also weathers due to the breakdown of its weak clap cement. This is very important for the exposed faces and the caves open to the circulation of atmosphere, but it isn’t a problem for the caves which have been virtually sealed beneath houses or behind doors. These caves aren’t accessible since they are below private houses but there are public footpaths which lead to some of them.
Clicking an amazing photograph isn’t as easy as it may sound. Some people think that they just need a fancy camera and they will be able to capture stunning images. While yes, an expensive camera certainly helps, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that photographs from such a camera will be perfect. It has a lot to do with the photographer as well. Here are a few of the qualities which any photographer must possess in order to click an excellent photograph:
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Business travel is quite common in a number of organizations nowadays. As a business grows, the need for its employees to travel grows as well. In fact, one of the biggest expenses that a business may incur in the long run is lodging. So how can you save on your business travel? Here are a few lodging tips:
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